Several studies have shown that adults who get too little vitamin D, also known as the "sunshine" vitamin, are at an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Now, a new study by Johns Hopkins researchers finds low vitamin D levels significantly raises a teenager’s risk as well.
Jared P. Reis, PhD and colleagues analyzed data collected from 3,577 teens aged 12 to 19 involved in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) over a four year period.
Compared to the 25 percent of teens with the highest vitamin D levels (26 ng/mL or more) in their blood, the 25 percent of them with the lowest vitamin D levels (15 ng/mL or less) had:
3.99 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome
2.54 greater risk of high blood sugar
2.36 greater risk of high blood pressure
The highest levels (28.0 ng/mL) of vitamin D were found in whites while the lowest levels (15.5 ng/mL ) were found in blacks and intermediate levels in Mexican-Americans.
Metabolic syndrome is a combination of medical disorders that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
While the findings are suggestive that vitamin D supplements may be helpful, Reis warns that more research is needed to determine if that would reduce heart disease risk and diabetes.
“Before recommendations can be made for vitamin D in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, clinical trials designed to evaluate the effects of vitamin D supplementation on heart disease factors in adolescents needs to be conducted,” said Reis in a news release.
Robert H. Eckel, MD, president of the American Heart Association says, supplements may not be the most effective way to get vitamin D but rather a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Few foods contain vitamin D naturally aside from salmon, cod liver oil, and deepwater fish . Foods fortified with the vitamin include milk, cereals and some orange juice.
Still up for debate is how much vitamin D is enough. 200 to 400 IU are the suggested minimum daily dose for children and teens, though for adults with risk factors for osteoporosis recommendations are 800 IU daily or higher.
Several recent studies have suggested vitamin D may offer a host of other health benefits, including protecting against various cancers such as breast and colon cancer, tuberculosis, and other diseases.
How the vitamin works is not entirely understood, but it may have some influence on regulating blood pressure, inflammation, or calcification of coronary arteries.
“Vitamin D plays an essential role in human health, particularly in bone health. Other roles are continually emerging,” Reis said.
Getting The Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D deficiency likely results from staying out of the sun.
Sunshine exposure allows the body to create its own vitamin D. Ten minutes between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on skin without sunscreen should be adequate. Darker skin people need slightly more exposure. Beyond 15 or 30 minutes, sunscreen should be added.
The research was recently presented at the American Heart Association’s 49th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention. #